Did Company drive critics crazy?
Rosalie Craig opens alongside Patti LuPone and more in Marianne Elliott's revised version of Stephen Sondheim's musical
Sarah Crompton, WhatsOnStage
"Marianne Elliott's decision to turn the central character of singleton Bobby into a female Bobbie transforms and illuminates the entire show. It feels smart, fresh and relevant. It was always one of Sondheim's very best compositions, witty and passionate in equal measures. This approach makes it a revelation all over again."
"The Alice in Wonderland reference is quite explicit in Bunny Christie's florescent-framed sets, a series of moveable trucks which pinion Craig inside her living room, grouped with her friends as she celebrates her 35th birthday – "How many times do you get to celebrate your 35th birthday? Eleven!" – and then traps her inside, until she finds the key to the door."
"As Joanne, Patti LuPone gives a lesson in pure class, delivering each zinging line with exactly the right mixture of menace and aplomb. She is the repository for some Sondheim's wittiest lines – "My first husband? He was difficult to remember even when you were with him" – and she makes them tell. Her rendition of "The Ladies Who Lunch", is so profound, you want to cheer even as you cry."
Dominic Cavendish, The Telegraph
"Updating the plot-less, dreamlike action to the New York of here and now, Elliott achieves the equivalent of a high-speed handbrake turn that doesn't emit a jarring screech or alarming gear-shift."
"Rosalie Craig gives a career-making performance as "Bobbie", taking you inside the mind of a relatable woman who should be carefree but, assailed by social invitations and unsubtle insinuations from her needy married friends, feels the pressure to settle down, compounded by the ticking of her biological clock."
"Craig – with her facial expressiveness (flickers of bemused quizzicality and suppressed panic) and vocal soulfulness – delivers a tour de force that deserves to be the talk of the town. But she's at the centre of an evening which, as the title (emblazoned in neon lettering come the close) suggests, is all about ensemble effort."
Paul Taylor, The Independent
"It has to be said that the songs – the jabbing title number, "The Little Things You Do Together", "Getting Married Today" et al – are vastly superior in wit and pertinence to the rather scrappy, lacklustre vignettes in George Furth's book. Elliott keeps the energy levels up with the inventiveness of her staging. Neil Austin's excellent lighting and Bunny Christie's sliding neon-rimmed rooms, painted in a creepily elegant, monochrome grey, add to the impression that we are inside Bobbie's head. "
"The ensemble of friends (which includes Gavin Spokes and Mel Giedroyc) is terrific – funny and slightly sinister in the smug way they batten on her... Amy has been re-conceived as Jamie, a gay groom who has a terrible panic attack about his imminent nuptials. Jonathan Bailey delivers the character's frantic patter song "Getting Married Today" with a hilarious, solemn intensity, shoving the implacably smiling female cleric out of the way in his fridge.
Michael Billington, The Guardian
"If the show sharpens, through Bobbie, the dilemma facing the semi-detached woman, it also offers a hauntingly ambivalent study of marriage. You see that in one of Sondheim's finest numbers, "Sorry-Grateful", in which three married men express the constant tug between security and freedom: "You're scared she's starting to drift away – and scared she'll stay." And it's a sign of the show's complex structure that the same idea is reprised to comic effect in "Barcelona" where Bobbie is similarly torn over a one-night stand with a not-so-bright flight attendant.
"The key idea behind Elliott's production and Bunny Christie's design is of Bobbie as a modern Alice in Wonderland exploring a set of sliding rooms that expose the foibles of married life. It gives the show a dream-like quality but obscures the implied connection between Manhattan and marriage and cramps Liam Steel's choreography of the swaggering vaudevillian number, "Side By Side By Side"."
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out
"It's important at this stage to point out that Company is entertaining as hell."
"For starters, its cynical depiction of amoral New Yorkers screwing their own lives up is incredibly funny: Seinfeld years before there was Seinfeld, and with much better songs."
"And Elliott has put together a cast to die for. Liam Steel has brilliantly choreographed the ensemble scenes, notably the nightmarish party of "Side by Side by Side". But Company mostly unfolds as a series of small vignettes, each based around a different couple. Former Bake Off doyenne Mel Giedroyc gives a masterclass in the comic possibilities of passive-aggression as Sarah, married to Gavin Spokes's schlubby Harry."
Dominic Maxwell, The Times
"Swiping on her dating app as she surveys prospective partners, hanging out with the five married couples that make up her Manhattan friendship circle, Rosalie Craig's Bobbie is always the odd one out, her red dress a rude contrast to the grey walls of the confined apartments that slide on and off Bunny Christie's set.
"Bobbie's three boyfriends — the gorgeous, ditzy airline steward (Richard Fleeshman), the egregiously boho Brit (George Blagden), the nice guy who could have been a keeper but now it's too late (Matthew Seadon-Young) — offer competing flavours of not-quite-right. And, for all the excellence of this British cast, Patti LuPone astounds. A bona fide star lured out of musical-theatre retirement for the role of the jaded Joan, when she eventually gets a tune to herself, "The Ladies Who Lunch", she steals the show."